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The Best Books for Teaching About Character Traits

Reading
Header for blog about character trait books. Includes picture of a double bubble map and the book cover for Strega Nona.

Character traits are the personality or qualities that make a character in a story unique or interesting. Being able to identify these traits is a common reading comprehension skill. This skill helps readers understand the characters, which in turn helps them understand the story. Check out five of my favorite books to use to focus on character traits along with a few ideas for independent practice.

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No, David

Cover of picture book No, David

I love using No, David to first start talking about character traits especially in younger grades. There isn’t a ton of text so the students don’t get bogged down in a lot of details. Even with less text, the pictures provide plenty of opportunities to get a sneak peek into how David is as a character. Students will often come up with traits like silly, naughty, sweet, and more to describe David. 

Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day

Cover of picture book Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day

This picture book is a staple in most classrooms. The main character, Alexander is facing a rough day which most kids can identify with (this book is also great for students making a text to self connection). Kids will often identify feelings for Alexander along with the character traits – jealous, loud, active, and mischievous.

Julius, The Baby of the World

Cover of picture book Julius - The Baby of the World

I love using this book to discuss character traits because the main character Lilly’s feelings and traits change throughout the book. At the beginning of the story, she’s excited for her new sibling (Julius) to arrive. Once he arrives and his parents dote on him, Lilly is not a fan. She is angry and jealous and becomes quite mischievous. Then, when a cousin treats him that same way, Lilly changes her tune. She and Julius then become buddies and she shows her more compassionate, loving side.

Lilly’s Purple Plastic Purse

Cover of picture book Lilly's Purple Plastic Purse

When I use this Kevin Henkes’ story in class, I like to focus on Lilly and Mr. Slinger. Lilly (like in Julius, The Baby of the World) changes her feelings throughout the book. Mr. Slinger is the confident, smart, and funny teacher. Lilly starts off being a good listener, kind, and excited about school. She then gets upset with her teacher and her mean side comes out. By the end of the story, she sees the error in her ways and shows the teacher her kind side again.

Strega Nona

Cover of picture book Strega Nona

This is another great story to use when focusing on character traits of two different characters. Strega Nona is a witch who helps people. She uses this magic pasta pot to do her magic. She has asked people not to touch the pasta pot. Big Anthony comes to be a worker for Strega Nona and he doesn’t listen. He decides he wants to use the pasta pot, but it backfires. This is a great story to focus on both characters and to also compare and contrast two characters.

Independent Practice with Character Traits – Bubble Map

Picture of Bubble Map to show character traits

I love using Bubble Maps from Thinking Maps for displaying character traits. In the middle bubble, students put the character name and then in bubbles around it they put the traits that describe the character. It’s an easy visual way to see how that character can be described.

Independent Practice with Character Traits – Double Bubble Map

Double Bubble Map used to compare and contrast character traits

A Double Bubble Map is a great Thinking Map option for comparing characters. This map is like a venn diagram and students will put the characters on opposite sides. Traits that these characters have in common will go in the middle and traits that are different will go on their specific side. This is a great way to visually see what the characters have in common and what is different.

For more book suggestions, check out these blog posts…

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